Category Archives: Feast Days

On the THREE days of Hallowe’en…

“A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows…”

*   *   *   *

Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (“Who comes to Him.”  See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpgMost people think Halloween is one day, October 31st.  But there are actually three days of “Hallowe’en.”  Or more precisely, Halloween is the first day of the Halloween “Triduum.”  (In the alternative Allhallowtide.) 

And Triduum is just a fancy Latin word for “three days.”

In turn the word “hallow” – in both “Hallowe’en” and “Allhallowtide” – came from the Old English word for “saint,” halig.  That eventually became “hallow.”  (Maybe because it was easier to say.)  Which led to November 1 now being called All Saints’ Day.  But to the Old English, “All Haligs’ Day” – November 1 – eventually became “All Hallows Day.”  Then the “eve” before that Feast Day – October 31 – became “All Hallows Evening.”  In time that shortened to “All Hallows E’en.”  And later still it shortened to “Hallowe’en,” then just plain Halloween.

Wikipedia said this three-day period is a “time to remember the dead, including martyrssaints, and all faithful departed Christians.”  The main day of the three is November 1, now called All Saints Day, but previously referred to as Hallowmas.  It was established sometime between 731 and 741 – over 1,300 years ago – “perhaps by Pope Gregory III.”

Put another way, November 1 honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown.”  In other words, special people in the Church.  (A saint is defined as one “having an exceptional degree of holiness,” while a martyr is someone “killed because of their testimony of Jesus.”)  On the other hand, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – was designed to honor “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.’”  In other words, the rest of us poor schmucks (Those of us who have died, that is.)

So back to Halloween:  It all started with an old-time belief that evil spirits were most prevalent during the long nights of winter.  The “old-timers” also thought the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were at their its lowest and most permeable the night of October 31:

So, those old-time people would wear masks or put on costumes in order to disguise their identities.  The idea was to keep the afterlife “hallows” – ghosts or spirits – from recognizing the people in this, the “material world.”

Another thing they did was build bonfires, literally bonefires.  (That is, “bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned.”)  The original idea was that evil spirits had to be driven away with noise and fire.  But that evolved into this:  The “fires were thought to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.”

There was another old-time custom, that if you had to travel on All Hallows E’en – like from 11:00 p.m. until midnight – your had to be careful.  If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen.  (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming winter “season of darkness.”)  But if your candle went out, “the omen was bad indeed.”

The thought was that the candle had been blown out by witches

Then there were the pumpkins.  Apparently some other old-time people set out carved pumpkins on their windowsills, to keep “harmful spirits” out of their home.   But yet another tradition said  jack-o’-lanterns “represented Christian souls in purgatory.”  And while today jack-o’-lanterns are made from pumpkins, but were originally carved from large turnips.

In turn, both the jack-o’-lantern and Will-o’-the-wisp – at right, in a Japanese interpretation – are tied in with the strange ghostly light known as ignis fatuus.  (From the Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.”)  That refers to the “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes.  It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached:”

Tradition had it that this ghostly light – seen by travelers at night and “especially over bogs, swamps or marshes – resembled a flickering lamp.  The flickering lamp then receded if you approached it, and so it “drew travelers from their safe paths,” to their doom…

Finally we get to the third of the three-day holiday – November 2 – All Souls’ Day.  The original idea was to remember the souls of “the dear departed,” illustrated by the painting below.

“Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives” on November 2.  The custom began in the sixth century with a Benedictine custom of commemorating deceased members of a given monastery at Whitsuntide.  (Or “Whit(e) Sunday,” also known as Pentecost, held 50 days after Easter Sunday.)  That changed in the 11th century when Saint Odilo of Cluny chose the day after All Souls Day to commemorate “all the faithful departed … with alms, prayers, and sacrifices for the relief of the suffering souls in purgatory.”

On that note, here’s the Collect for All Saints Day, from the Lectionary Page website:

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:  Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;  through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

So there you have it.  In closing, here’s wishing you a happy three days of Hallowe’en. 

*   *   *   *

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Day of the Dead (1859).jpg

The “Three Days of Halloween” end November 2, with All Souls’ Day …

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Allhallowtide – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows.  Flowers and lighted candles are placed by relatives on the graves of their deceased loved ones.”

The image of the jack-o’lantern is courtesy of Halloween – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A jack-o’-lantern, one of the symbols of Halloween representing the souls of the dead.”

The lower image is courtesy of All Souls’ Day – Wikipedia.  The caption: “All Souls’ Day by William Bouguereau.”   See also Allhallowtide, and All Saints’ Day – Wikipedia.

*   *   *   *

As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”  

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

On St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men…

A colorful Japanese illustration of the parable of the Blind men and elephant… 

*   *   *   *

In the meantime:

October 23 is the Feast Day for James, the brother of Jesus.  About which there seems to be some confusion, not least of all on my part.  He’s sometimes confused with James, the son of Zebedee, also called James the Greater, “to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus (James the Less) and James the brother of Jesus,” also known as “James the Just.”

According to Wikipedia – and other sources – “In the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. and Lutheran Church, James, brother of Jesus and martyr is commemorated on October 23.”  On the other hand the Feast Day for James the Greater is on July 25.  See On “St. James the Greater,” posted July 24, 2014.  Among other things, James the Greater is considered the “patron saint of pilgrims.”  Seen at left, he is “depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”

And incidentally, in that July 2014 post I got these two Jameses mixed up, which is apparently not that uncommon.  See for example The Men Named James in the New Testament – Agape Bible Study.  That site listed the following men named James in the New Testament:  1) James the son of Zebedee and brother of the Apostle St. John (James the Greater);  2) James the “brother” of Jesus (whose Feast Day is October 23);  3) the Apostle James, “son of Alphaeus;”  and 4) James, the father of the Apostle Jude.

So anyway, this particular “James” is considered to be the author of the Epistle of James.  And according to his Wikipedia article, “As many as six different men in the Bible are named James.”  All of which makes for more than the usual amount of confusion.  For example:

Roman Catholic tradition generally holds that this James is to be identified with James, son of Alphaeus, and James the Less.  It is agreed by most [Catholics, apparently] that he should not be confused with James, son of Zebedee.

Saint James the Just.jpgBe that as it may, here’s what the Wikipedia article said about this particular “10/23” James – whose “icon” is shown at right:

The Pauline epistles and the later chapters of the Acts of the Apostles portray James as an important figure in the Christian community of Jerusalem.  When Paul arrives in Jerusalem to deliver the money he raised for the faithful there, it is to James that he speaks, and it is James who insists that Paul ritually cleanse himself at Herod’s Temple to prove his faith…  Paul describes James as being one of the persons to whom the risen Christ showed himself … and in Galatians 2:9, Paul lists James with Cephas (better known as Peter) and John the Apostle as the three “pillars” of the Church.

Another note:  The Gospel for this Feast Day is Matthew 13:54-58.  It tells of Jesus returning to His home town and teaching in the synagogue.  As a result, the locals were “astounded” at His teaching, and started asking, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”

But wait!  There’s still more confusion!  This time as to James’ death:  “According to Josephus James was stoned to death by Ananus ben Ananus.”  But “Clement of Alexandria relates that ‘James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club.'”  All of which brings up the “parable of the Blind men and elephant.”

I discussed this parable in Reading the Bible (July 2014), On the wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel” (June 2015), and On snake-handling “redux” (May 2016).  I added a new wrinkle to the “Seven Blind Men and the Elephant” with the April 2018 post, “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other(Including the image at left.)

The gist of that post was that Good Christians should be able to “argue” with each other – in the good sense.  (The sense of “civil” lawyers presenting concise and reasoned bases to support their position, and not resorting to name-calling or “ad hominem” attacks.)

The gist of that post was also that in doing so, such “Good” Christians can fulfill their duty as “Watchmen of Christ” for each other, pursuant to Ezekiel 3:16-19 (“Task as Watchman“):

 [T]he word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel…   When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.   But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin;  but you will have saved yourself.

So if one good Christian sees another one in error, he is duty-bound to discuss that potential error.  And from the resulting “spirited debate,” both Christians may get ever closer to “the Truth.”  As Wikipedia noted, the parable can be used to “illustrate a range of truths and fallacies.”  For example, “one’s subjective experience can be true, but [is] inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth.”

At various times the parable has provided insight into the relativism, opaqueness or inexpressible nature of truth, [as well as] the need for deeper understanding, and respect for different perspectives on the same object of observation.

Of course such “persuasion” can only work with Christians willing to admit they don’t have all the answers, or that anyone who disagrees with them is “going to hell.”  (From the “very-American concept of the adversary system – a basic tenet of our legal system – as the best way of arriving at ‘the truth.’”)  And which is actually based on the Bible, like in Ezekiel, Chapter 3.

The point of the parable was that each blind man, “in his own opinion,” thought the elephant was “like a wall, snake, spear, tree, fan or rope, depending upon where they had touched.”  Which led to this “Moral,” from the poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816–1887):

So oft in theologic wars, The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant not one of them has seen!

And if such disputes can arise over a “mere elephant,” it’s no small wonder how many heated arguments have come over the full depth and meaning of God, a God “not one of them has seen!”  Or as Apostle Paul said, “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.” (1st Corinthians 13:12.”

And if the Apostle Paul can admit that even he could see “only in part,” who are we to say we know “everything there is to know about God,” or dare to tell other people how to live?

All of which brings up what the great philosopher Charlie Chan once noted:

“Mind like parachute; work best when open.”

*   *   *   *

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51smUOfD0aL.jpg

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Blind men and elephant – Wikipedia.  The ull caption: “Blind monks examining an elephant, an ukiyo-e print by Hanabusa Itchō (1652–1724).”  This parable has “crossed between many religious traditions and is part of of JainBuddhistSufi and Hindu lore.”  (Wikipedia.)  In the Buddhist version, “The men cannot agree with one another and come to blows over the question of what it is like and their dispute delights the king.  The Buddha ends the story by comparing the blind men to preachers and scholars who are blind and ignorant and hold to their own views.”  See also Matthew 13:34 (ESV):  “All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.

The lower image of Charlie Chan is courtesy of amazon.com/Charlie-Collection-Honolulu-Treasure.  See also Some Bible basics from Vince Lombardi and Charlie Chan, which included the Home-page quote, “Mind like parachute.  Work best when open.”  See also THE BASICS, above.   

On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel”

File:Brugghen, Hendrick ter - The Calling of St. Matthew - 1621.jpg

The Calling of St. Matthew,” by Hendrick ter Brugghenas described in Matthew 9:9-13… 

*   *   *   *

Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

I wrote in 2016’s St. Matthew and “Cinderella” that two major feast days in September are Holy Cross Day (9/14) and St. Matthew, Evangelist (9/21).  A third major feast day comes on September 29, for “St. Michael and All Angels.”  And just as an aside, there’s a painting in that last post, “Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory.”  To which I said:

 “Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

There’s more on that later, but first:  To review, 9/14’s Holy Cross Day is one of several Feasts of the Cross, all of which “commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus:”

In English, it is called The Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the official translation of the Roman Missal, while the 1973 translation called it The Triumph of the Cross.  In some parts of the Anglican Communion the feast is called Holy Cross Day…

As far as St. Matthew and “Cinderella” go, that post noted that the love Jesus had for all mankind extended even to tax collectors (As caricatured at left.)

That is, in Jesus’ time – and among the Jewish people especially – such a tax farmer as Matthew was “sure to be hated above all men as a merciless leech who would take the shirt off a dying child.”  And so – during the time of Jesus – devout Jews avoided them at all costs.

They were fellow Jews, but worked for the Romans as tax collectors.  And “because they were usually dishonest (the job carried no salary, and they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people from whom they collected taxes).”  Which led to this lesson from Jesus:

Thus, throughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors (publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast.  Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus, and social outcasts in general were shown that the love of Jesus extended even to them.

“Which turned out to be good news for pretty much all of us.”  Because – as a Bible conservative would have said in Jesus’ time – The Good News didn’t extend to us “Gentiles.”

There’s more good news in “St. Michael and All Angels.”  If you can keep an open mind.  I mentioned the painting captioned, “Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory.”  And that I’m ready to “take all the help I can get!”  But first some background:

Michael is mentioned most prominently in Revelation 12:7-10:

[T]here was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.  And prevailed not…   [T]he great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.   And I heard a loud voice saying … the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

See also Michael (archangel) – Wikipedia, which noted that in the “New Testament Michael leads God’s armies against Satan‘s forces … where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan.”  Also, Michael is mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel, once as a “great prince who stands up for the children of your people.”  And the formal name for September 29 is Michaelmas.

Now comes the tricky part.  I go to the Episcopal Church, part of the Anglican Communion.   We use the Book of Common Prayer.  And the Prayer Book says the idea of purgatory is both a “Romish doctrine” and “repugnant to the Word of God.”  But like I said, I’m willing to be flexible.

The thing is, without purgatory your dying day is pass-fail.  You’re either in or you’re out.  You either go to heaven or “down, down the down-down way.”  But with purgatory you get another chance.  You can enter that “intermediate state after physical death,” where some of those “ultimately destined for heaven” can first undergo “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”  And like I said, I’m willing to be flexible.

So here’s to Michael (archangel), and his reaching out to save souls in purgatory.”

Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

*   *   *   *

“Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory . . .”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of  Brugghen, Hendrick ter – The Calling of St. Matthew See also Matthew the Apostle – Wikipedia.

Re:  “Such a tax farmer as St. Matthew.”  The reference is to a post in 2014, On St. Matthew.

Re:  Purgatory as a “Romish doctrine.”  See page 872 of the BCP, or The Online Book of Common Prayer under Historical Documents of the Church, Articles of Religion, Part XXII:

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well
of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and
grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

But another note on Purgatory and the Episcopal Church:  “Although denying the existence of purgatory as formulated in Roman Catholic doctrine, the Anglican and Methodist traditions … affirm the existence of an intermediate state, Hades, and thus pray for the dead.”  The latter will be addressed later this month, as noted in 2017’s On the THREE days of Hallowe’en.

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, with the full caption: “Guido Reni‘s painting in Santa Maria della Concezione, Rome, 1636 is also reproduced in mosaic at the St. Michael Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican.”

*   *   *   *

As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”  

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

Did Jesus interpret Scripture “liberally?”

In the parable of the “Prodigal Son,” Jesus rejected conservatism in favor of grace

*   *   *   *

I originally called this post “Jesus was a liberal.”  But after further review I narrowed the scope, something appeal-courts often do.  That made the question far less broad and so easier to answer.  Thus the limited question:  “Did Jesus interpret Scripture ‘liberally?”  Or as one legal site said, “What is called a liberal construction is ordinarily one which makes a statute apply to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”

And that’s just what Jesus did.  (And His disciples.)  For starters, there’s Mark 2:27 where Jesus said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”  That is, under the old law – the “conservative law” – of Exodus 23:12, any work on the Sabbath was forbidden:

For six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you must cease, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your maidservant may be refreshed, as well as the foreign resident.

Philippe de Champaigne - Moses with the Ten Commandments - WGA04717.jpg(See also Deuteronomy 5:12, and 5:14.)  But to Jesus, circumstances had changed since Moses made that rule.  (Right after he brought the Israelites out of captivity.)  Which meant the “old law” needed updating.  (Mostly because Conservatives had elevated form over substance, as they are wont to do.)  So Jesus went back to the original words of the rule to fully implement its true intent.  

So again, “What is called a liberal construction is ordinarily one which makes a statute apply to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”

Which seems to be just what Jesus had in mind:  Make the Gospel apply to more people.

Then too – as if that isn’t enough to give a Southern Baptist apoplexy – many if not most of His disciples also interpreted Scripture “liberally.”  (Thus making the “Good News” apply to more things and in more situations – and to more people – than could be the case under strict construction.) 

Which brings up the fact that last June 29 was the Feast Day for both Saints Peter and Paul.  The Daily Office Readings for that day – Friday, June 29 – included Acts 11:1-18.  That’s one place where the Apostle Peter “went all Liberal.”  He did that in response to the Conservatives among early Christians who criticized him.  See Acts 11:1:  “Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God.”

Which didn’t suit them at all.  See Acts 11:2:  “So when Peter” – at left – “went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers” – that is, the Conservatives – “criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’  But as it turned out. those Conservatives had open minds.  That is, after Peter explained his “vision,” they actually changed their minds.  (Something today’s Conservatives rarely do.)  See Acts 11:18:  “When they heard these things they fell silent.  And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'”

That is, under the Old Law – the Conservative, “Jeff Sessions” law – the Path of Life was limited to Jews, and only to Jews.  That’s pretty much what Jesus said – at first – in Matthew 15:27.  That’s where Jesus set out the Conservative view that “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  (With the children being the Jews – and only the Jews – while the “dogs” are uncircumcised Gentiles.)  Yet Jesus – with His open mind – got “persuaded” to change His mind.

And – by the way – that turnabout came through a woman who was a bit smarmy:

With a woman’s ready wit, quickened by urgency and affection, she seizes the opportunity, and turns Christ’s own words against himself.  Thou sayest truth, she means;  the Jews are the children;  we are the dogs;  and as dogs we claim our portion.

Paolo Veronese. Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood.(From the Pulpit Commentary for verse 27.)  Then there was the case of Jesus healing the bleeding woman.  But His having anything to do with such an impure woman was contrary to the conservative “old” law of Leviticus 15:25-27:

“If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness.”

(See also Leviticus 15:19-23, regarding a woman’s regular monthly “Curse…”)

And finally there was the case of the Apostle Philip “liberally” dealing with an untouchable eunuch.  See On Saint Philip, Saint James, and “privy members.”  That is, as a eunuch the Ethiopian eunuch was untouchable under the Old Law, the Conservative Law.

That’s because of Deuteronomy 23:1, and the New Living Translation is pretty specific:  “If a man’s testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the LORD.”  The King James Bible – the one that God uses – put the matter more delicately:  “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.”  Yet Philip too turned “all Liberal,” and in doing so followed in the footsteps of Jesus.  That is, he interpreted the “Good News” so that it would apply to more things, more situations, and more people than was possible under “strict construction.”

(For more on whether Jesus was a “liberal,” see On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?)

Of course some conservatives – Biblical or otherwise – may disagree, which is of course their right.  But personally I’d like the Good News to apply to more people.  For one big thing, there’s Matthew 7:2:  “The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”  For myself, when my time comes I want whoever – Jesus, St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, whoever – to “turn all liberal” when He or they are reviewing my life.

Then too, the definition of conservatism includes a disposition “to preserve what is established,” and/or a “tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change.”  So all I can say is, “Thank God Jesus wasn’t a conservative!”  I’m glad He made some changes.

The bottom line?  All I can do is give you “just the facts.”  You decide for yourself…

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of The Return of the Prodigal Son (Rembrandt) – Wikipedia:

It is among the Dutch master’s final works, likely completed within two years of his death in 1669.  Depicting the moment of the prodigal son‘s return to his father … it is a renowned work described by art historian Kenneth Clark as “a picture which those who have seen the original in St. Petersburg may be forgiven for claiming as the greatest picture ever painted.”

See also Parable of the Prodigal Son – Wikipedia, which indicated that the older son – who stayed behind with his father – represented more “conservative” values.  That is, the older son  “seems to think in terms of ‘law, merit, and reward,’ rather than ‘love and graciousness.’  He may represent the Pharisees who were criticizing Jesus.”  See also “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”  

The initial first paragraph:  “It seems that if you want to start an argument these days, you could say something outrageous like ‘Jesus Was A Liberal.’  So here goes!  For starters, if you Google ‘jesus was a liberal’ you’ll get about 100,000 results.  (Which actually isn’t that many…)”   Also, the full title of the “Jesus-liberal” link is Jesus Was A Liberal: 20 Quotes GOP Christians Will Hate.  For an opposing view, see Was Jesus a Liberal? The Myth Debunked! » Louder With Crowder.  Or for a more balanced view, see Is Jesus a Liberal or a Conservative? | Meet The Need Blog.

Re:  The Sabbath.  See United Church of God – “The Sabbath Was Made for Man,” etc.

Re: Peter and Paul.  See also On Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”

Re:  Turning “Christ’s own words against himself.”  See also On arguing with God.

The “bleeding woman” image is courtesy of Veronese. Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood.

 BTW:  The complete Daily Office Readings for St. Peter & St. Paul are:  AM Psalm 66Ezekiel 2:1-7Acts 11:1-18;  PM Psalm 97138Isaiah 49:1-6Galatians 2:1-9.

The lower image is courtesy of Just The Facts Ma’am – Image Results.  But see also Joe Friday – Wikipedia, which noted that Detective Friday never actually used the phrase:  “A common misattributed catchphrase to Friday is ‘Just the facts, ma’am.’ In fact, Friday never actually said this in an episode, but it was featured in Stan Freberg‘s works parodying ‘Dragnet.’”  See also FACT CHECK: Dragnet ‘Just the Facts’ – snopes.com.

The Trinity – Jefferson’s “3-headed monster…”

Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson (by Rembrandt Peale, 1800).jpg

As smart a guy as Thomas Jefferson couldn’t understand the Doctrine of the Trinity

*   *   *   *

pentecost copyLast Sunday, May 20, 2018 was the Day of Pentecost (illustrated at left by El Greco.)  It’s also called Whitsunday.  This Sunday, May 27, was the First Sunday after Pentecost It’s also known as Trinity Sunday.

There’s more on the Trinity below – along with the “Three-headed Monster” – but first:  For more information on May 20 and Pentecost, see Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016Mary’s Visitation – and Pentecost – 2017, and Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”

Before the events of the first Pentecost … there were followers of Jesus, but no movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.”  Thus … Pentecost is the day on which the church was started.  This is also true from a spiritual perspective, since the Spirit brings the church into existence and enlivens it.  Thus Pentecost is the church’s birthday.

Pentecost also marked a big change in the idea of “Ministry.”  In the Old Testament, “the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings.”  But starting with Pentecost, God recruited “all different sorts of people for ministry.”  That is, the Holy Spirit – the spirit of ministry – now became available to anyone and everyone:  “All would be empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.”

Thus the first Pentecost was indeed a “momentous, watershed event.”

Incidentally, the word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek for “the 50th day,” and it’s always celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday.  (That’s “seven weeks plus one day.”) 

For more information on May 27, 2018, see On Trinity Sunday, 2015, and On Trinity Sunday (2016) – and more!  For starters, Trinity Sunday is always the Sunday after Pentecost, and  celebrates the idea of the three Persons of God:  Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit:

Trinity Sunday … is one of the few celebrations of the Christian Year that commemorates a reality and doctrine rather than a person or event…   The Trinity is one of the most fascinating – and controversial – Christian dogmas.  The Trinity is a mystery.  By mystery the Church does not mean a riddle, but rather the Trinity is a reality above our human comprehension that we may begin to grasp, but ultimately must know through worship, symbol, and faith.  It has been said that [this] mystery is not a wall to run up against, but an ocean in which to swim.

(Emphasis added.)  In other words, the Trinity as a concept is so difficult to understand that even a smart guy like Thomas Jefferson couldn’t do it.  But while Jefferson referred to the Doctrine of the Trinity as a “Three-headed Monster,” I prefer the metaphor of “an ocean in which to swim.”  (For a long, long time – and ultimately the rest of your Christian pilgrimage on this earth.)

It also seems to me that – while Jefferson was really smart – he fell into the “common error of thinking that he could ever really understand everything there is to know about God.”

But as noted above, “the Trinity is a reality above our human comprehension.”  It’s a reality that we can only begin to grasp.  The same seems to be true of much of the Bible, and especially the “mystical” parts.  (Which may be why some choose “literalism.”  It’s ever so much easier…)

That brings up the Gospel for May 27, John 3:1-17.  There Jesus had a talk with a “Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews” who was really a “Christian,” but secretly.  And even a smart guy like Nicodemus – shown at right talking with Jesus – didn’t understand the idea of being “born again.”

His problem?  He took Jesus’ words too literally:  “Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old?  Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’”

Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
…  If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

Which goes to show that reading the Bible too literally can only take you so far in your spiritual journey.  As Jesus Himself noted, the Bible includes many realities that are simply above our human comprehension:  “How can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”

See also the end of John, John 21:25, which said there were many other things Jesus did, “which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”  (Also there’s Ecclesiasticus 42:17, the Old Testament DOR for the Eve of Trinity Sunday:  “The Lord has not empowered even his holy ones to recount all his marvellous works.”)  Which just goes to show there’s more to the Bible than meets the eye.

*   *   *   *

The artist He Qi‘s interpretation of The Holy Spirit Coming down…  

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Thomas Jefferson – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Thomas Jefferson, Official White House Portrait, by Rembrandt Peale, 1805.” 

The full set of readings for Pentecost Sunday (5/20/18):  Acts 2:1-21, or Ezekiel 37:1-14Romans 8:22-27, or Acts 2:1-21John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15, and Psalm 104:25-35, 37.  The full set of readings for Trinity Sunday (5/27/18):  Isaiah 6:1-8Psalm 29Romans 8:12-17, and John 3:1-17.

Pentecost is also called “Tongue Sunday,” for the “tongues of fire” that appeared that day, as noted in Acts 2:3.  Also for “speaking in tongues” – also known as glossolalia – noted in Acts 2:4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Third, Pentecost marks the beginning of “Ordinary Time” – as it’s called in the Catholic Church – and shown in the chart at left.  Such “Ordinary Time” takes up over half the church year.  In the Episcopal Church – in the Anglican liturgy  – the Season of Pentecost begins on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday and goes on “through most of the summer and autumn.”  It may include as many as 28 Sundays, “depending on the date of Easter.”

As to Whitsunday: The name is a contraction of “White Sunday.”  In English “the feast was always called Pentecoste until after the Norman Conquest, when white (hwitte) began to be confused with wit or understanding.   [In] one interpretation, the name derives from the white garments worn by catechumens, those expecting to be baptised on that Sunday…  A different tradition is that of the young women of the parish all coming to church or chapel in new white dresses on that day. 

Re:  “Ecclesiasticus.”  That book – not to be confused with Ecclesiastes – is also called the Wisdom of Sirach And the “book itself is the largest wisdom book from antiquity to have survived:”

Sirach is accepted as part of the Christian biblical canons by CatholicsEastern Orthodox, and most of Oriental Orthodox. The Anglican Church does not accept Sirach as protocanonical, and says it should be read only “for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth not apply them to establish any doctrine.”

Note that the link in the main text provides the King James translation of Ecclesiasticus 42:17.  The quote as given in the main text is from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

The lower image is courtesy of The Good Heart: Holy Spirit Coming (Painting by He Qi):  

“A genuinely good heart is a heart that is open and alight with understanding.  It listens to the sorrows of the world.  Our society is wrong to think that happiness depends on fulfilling one’s own wants and desires.  That is why our society is so miserable…”

See also He Qi « Artist:  “One could say that among other things his paintings are a celebration of colour.  The style of his work is iconic, and [his] images are strong but gentle.”

 

Palm Sunday: To “not sin,” or to accomplish something?

Is this the face of a prophet?  He did say to mind your own business, just like Jesus did…

*   *   *   *

Two mornings ago I was reading the DORs for Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018.

For some reason Psalm 103 struck a chord, but not in a good way.  It seemed to focus on “sin,” in the manner of so many “busybodies” who masquerade as “good Christians.”  (Illustrated at right.)  See for example 2d Thessalonians 3:11 … Bible Hub, and the citations therein.  And see also – from the Palm Sunday readings –  Psalm 103, and especially Psalm 103:3 and Psalm 103:10.

All of which led to this question:  What does God want us to actually do with our lives? 

Should we focus on trying not to do anything wrong?  Or should we focus more on actually doing something with our lives?  Put another way:  Should we focus on developing the talents and gifts that God gave us?  Or – as some Christians seem to imply – “We have to focus on staying ‘sinless,’ and thus on staying Simon Pure?”  (A term which can mean either “genuinely and thoroughly pure,” or “superficially or hypocritically virtuous.”  The problem?  Too many so-called “Conservative Christians” seem to fit the latter meaning…)

http://www.releasetheape.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/arrow-target1-890x556.pngMy theory is that God would prefer that we actually do something positive with our lives, and not worry so much about not making mistakes.  See for example On sin and cybernetics, which noted “You can’t hit the target without ‘negative feedback,’” shown at left, and also that:

Maybe the concepts of sin, repentance and confession are simply tools to help us get closer to the target next time out, even if we never become “perfect.”

And which also leads to the Biblical concept about Minding Your Own Business.  There was a variation on that theme by Hank Williams.  (“Hank the Elder.”)   It has the standard chorus, “If you mind your business then you won’t be minding mine.”  And it closes by saying, “if you mind your own business you’ll stay busy all the time.”  You’ll be so busy, in fact, that you won’t have time to be telling other people how to live their lives.  (I.e., being a “busybody.”)

Which is actually Biblical.  See Matthew 7, and especially 7:5, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye:”

Here the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount … gives a new motive to the work of self-scrutiny and self-reformation…  When we have wrestled with and overcome our own besetting sins, then, and not till then, shall we be able, with the insight and tact which the work demands, to help others to overcome theirs.

See also On “holier than thou,” for more on the Parable of the Mote and the Beam (In which Jesus warns His followers on “the dangers of judging others, stating that they too would be judged by the same standard.”)  That post also presented an easy test:  “Being aware that you may be self-righteous – or have a ‘holier than thou’ attitude – is a strong indication that you probably don’t have either problem.”

*   *   *   *

And speaking of Palm Sunday, it’s that time of year again.

We are now in the midst of Holy Week.  On that note, see the following posts:  From 2015, On Holy Week – and hot buns;  from 2016, On Holy Week – 2016; and from 2017, Psalm 22 and the “Passion of Jesus.”  The latter post included the image below, with the note about Good Friday, to wit:  “Here’s a spoiler alert:

There is a happy ending, and we get to find out all about it next Sunday…”

*   *   *   *

Thepassionposterface-1-.jpg

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Hank Williams – Wikipedia:  “Hank Williams in concert in 1951.”

The complete set of Daily Office readings for Palm Sunday:  “AM  Psalm 24, 29Zech[ariah] 9:9-121 Tim[othy] 6:12-16;  PM: Psalm 103Zech[ariah] 12:9-11,13:1,7-9;” and Luke 19:41-48.

The “masquerade” image is courtesy of Drama – Wikipedia:  “Comedy and tragedy masks.”  See also Definition of two-faced by The Free Dictionary.

The lower image is courtesy of Passion of the Christ – Wikipedia.  It was also used in the 2017 post, Psalm 22 and the “Passion of Jesus.” 

On the beginning of Lent – 2018

The Temptation(s) of Christ – during His 40 days of wandering – which Lent seeks to emulate…

*   *   *   *

I confess – I “do not deny but confess” – that I have been lax in posting new essays for this blog.  One excuse is that I’ve been focusing more on my art.  (For one thing, I’ve finally gotten to the point – after 66 years of this incarnation – that I actually feel like I know what I’m doing.)  Be that as it may, it’s high time to finish another post, especially since Lent began a week or so ago, with Ash Wednesday.

If nothing else, I may need to do penance for my sins…  (The image at right is “‘La Penitente’ by Pietro Rotari.”)

Which relates to the kind of Wandering in the Wilderness that many of us seem to have to go through.  (That is, before we “reach a certain age” and – for example – feel like we know what we’re doing.)

So anyway, this whole idea of Lent as a kind of mini-Wandering in the Wilderness started back with Moses.  And with his leading the Children of Israel during the original Exodus, as recited years later by Nehemiah, at 9:12-21.  Now we don’t have an actual “pillar of cloud” by day, or a “pillar of fire in the night” to light our way.  But we do have the example set by Jesus.

Which brings up the whole topic of Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:

According to the canonical gospels of MatthewMark and LukeJesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by SatanLent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

See Wikipedia, On Ash Wednesday and Lent, and also Lent 101 – The Upper Room.

So the “40 days of Lent” are supposed to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus spent “wandering in the wilderness.”  (And being “tempted.”)  In turn, that act by Jesus mirrored the 40 years that the Hebrews – led by Moses – also spent “wandering around.”  But as it’s evolved, most people today equate Lent with “giving up something they love.”  Which may miss the point entirely.  (See e.g., Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?)

For me it seems more appropriate to remember that “while the Promised Land is wonderful, we learn our greatest lessons on the journey along the way.”  That’s from the “mini-Wandering in the Wilderness” link above, posted by Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman back in 2011.  His article is called “What We Can Learn from Wandering in the Wilderness,” and it contains some valid points for this Lenten season.  Points like this:

Life can be hard, and the world can be scary.  If we learn to accept that, and not expect the world to revolve around us, we can discover the myriad ways in which we can make a difference, and invest our energy in those tasks.

So the Christian life itself is a pilgrimage, and the 40 days of Lent can be a kind of dress rehearsal, or “full-scale practice.”  (Where it’s important to remember the happy ending.)  

Another lesson:  It can be “fun, natural and even important to explore uncharted territory [during Lent].  After all, we never learn or grow if we stay in the same place.”  Which is why – two years ago – I chose a different course.  See My Lenten meditation, from February 14, 2016:

I’ve always wondered just when, where and how Moses came to write the first five books of the Bible. (The Torah.)  So I’ve decided that – aside from Bible-reading on a daily basis, which I already do anyway – I’ll spend this Lent “meditating” on this topic.  More precisely, I plan to spend this Lent contemplating on how and when Moses wrote those first five books.

Which turned out to be pretty enlightening.  For example, Moses probably knew the earth revolved around the sun, but couldn’t share that information with the primitive, illiterate tribes he led.  (He would have been stoned to death for heresy.  See On Moses getting stoned.  And as an aside, the same thing almost happened to Jesus.  But in Luke 4:21-30, Jesus wasn’t threatened by stoning, as Moses was.  Instead, “the people” wanted to throw Him off a cliff, as shown at left.)

For another thing, four of the five books of the Torah were “pretty much autobiography.”  (That is, Moses wrote about his life, and his role in leading the Hebrews out of slavery and into their Promised Land.  And in doing so he referred to himself in the third person, a literary device called illeism.  See also On Moses and “illeism.)  But in writing Genesis, Moses had to go back to the origins of time itself.  He had to go back to the Creation of the World itself.   And in doing that, he almost certainly had to rely on oral tradition.

Then there’s the question whether “writing” had been invented by the time of Moses at all.  All of which are fascinating questions, but certainly beyond the scope of this post.  (Maybe later?)

So I’ll end the post with this BTW:  There are actually 46 days of Lent;  46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  That’s because Sundays don’t count in the calculation.  Sundays in Lent are essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.”  But somehow that fact got overlooked by the writers and/or producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights, the “2002 romantic comedy film.”  That film portrayed the main character “during a period of abstinence from any sexual contact for the duration of Lent.”  But as noted, the main character “could have taken Sundays off.”  Which just goes to show that – sometimes at least:

It pays to read and study the Bible!

*   *   *   *

40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Temptation of Christ – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Temptations of Christ, 12th century mosaic at St Mark’s BasilicaVenice.”  

The “Penitente” image is courtesy of Penance – Wikipedia, which adds this note:

The word penance derives from Old French and Latin paenitentia, both of which derive from the same root meaning repentance, the desire to be forgiven (in English see contrition). Penance and repentance, similar in their derivation and original sense, have come to symbolize conflicting views of the essence of repentance, arising from the controversy as to the respective merits of “faith” and “good works.”  Word derivations occur in many languages.

Re:  Phrase “reach a certain age.”  The allusion is to “women of a certain age.”  That phrase was “repopularized in a 1979 book by the psychotherapist Lillian B. Rubin, ‘Women of a Certain Age:  The Midlife Search for Self,’ in which midlife spanned 35 to 54.”  The 1995 New York Times article noted that – at the time it was published – Ms. Rubin was then in her early 70s.  It then added:

[T]he phrase … “has a long history in French, where it refers to women of fortyish and thereabouts who are able to initiate boys and young men into the beauties of sexual encounters.  The early use in English seems to be about spinsterhood, but the French meaning has nothing to do with marriage…”  In French, the phrase has erotically or sexually charged overtones.  [Naturally.]  “It comes from a society where sexuality is freer,” Dr. Rubin notes, “and more understood as an important part of human life…”  The phrase in French is femmes d’une certaine age.  The term, however, can apply to either sex.

To which I add my own hearty Amen.  (“So be it.”)  And note that as I’ve said before, one of the pleasures of blogging is that you can learn so many interesting new things…

The “giving up” image is courtesy of Diary of a Sower (“Giving up – or adding something – to Lent”).

Re:  Prior posts on Lent.  See On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016.

Re:  “Sundays off in Lent.”  See How Are the 40 Days of Lent Calculated? – ThoughtCoFast during Lent – EWTNIs There Really a “Sunday Exception” During Lent?

The lower image is courtesy of 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002) – IMDb.

“From Yahweh to Yahoo” – and the Great Dissenter

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. – otherwise known as “The Great Dissenter…”

*   *   *   *

It’s Wednesday, January 17, 2017, and snowing in God’s Country(See “Twitter erupts in memes, jokes and snowy scenes.”)

Which means we’re not supposed to leave home – i.e., drive on the roads.  Which also means I have no excuse for not doing a new post.  (The last was Happy Epiphany – 2018, 11 days ago.)

And just to catch you up, last Saturday,  January 13, was the Feast Day for St. Hilary.  See last year’s On Hilary – 1″L,” and HE was a bishop.  An aside: “Hilary’s parents were pagans – ‘of distinction.’  And he was said to have had a ‘good pagan education, which included a high level of Greek.'”  He went on to convert to Christianity, and ultimately became the Bishop of Poitiers(A city 210 miles southwest of Paris.)

But after that Hilary ran afoul of both church and secular authorities.  He backed the wrong side in the Arian controversy, and for that the Emperor Constantius II sent him into exile for four years.  But he put those years to good use.  In fact, his “dissents” became so persuasive that they were ultimately adopted as the “majority opinion.”  (So to speak.)

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr circa 1930-edit.jpgIn that he was not unlike Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., at right.  His “dissents were often prescient and acquired so much authority that he became known as ‘The Great Dissenter.’”

Anyway, Hilary – 1″L” concluded that sometimes God’s work means being “a disturber of the peace.”  (See Pastor denounces Trump’s ‘s–thole’ comments with red-faced Vice President Mike Pence in the pews.)  Which brings up a book from 15 or so years ago, getting my Master’s degree in Journalism:  From Yahweh to Yahoo!: THE RELIGIOUS ROOTS OF THE SECULAR PRESS.  The Amazon review said this:

{The book} provides a fresh and surprising view of the religious impulses at work in the typical newsroom…  Doug Underwood argues that American journalists are rooted in the nation’s moral and religious heritage and operate, in important ways, as personifications of the old religious virtues.

As a quasi-journalist I tend to agree.  And add that the same can apply to bloggers.

Definitions.netOr as has been said before, the job of both reporters and real Christians is comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  The link gives a good history of the development of that concept, to wit:  That the job of both reporters and true Christians is to be “watchdogs:”

The “comfortable” were the fat cats in business and politics who were dabbling in crime and corruption behind the scenes.  The journalists saw their dual role in the media as both comforting the victims of corruption and also calling the sleazy fat cats to account for their crimes.

And while the phrase doesn’t appear in the Bible, “the concept of God comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comforted is thoroughly Biblical.”  See for example, Psalm 18:27, which in the NLT says of God:  “You rescue the humble, but you humiliate the proud.”

Dooley in 1900.jpgFor another look at the link between reporters and real Christians, see the original “Mr. Dooley.”  He was the “fictional 19th century Irish bartender” created by Finley Peter Dunne.  See Poynter:

“Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward.”

(Emphasis added.)  Dooley was clearly being hyperbolic, but there are similarities.  Which is pretty much what Doug Underwood said in Yahweh to Yahoo!

Which brings us back to today’s Snow Day.  I’d found my copy of Yahweh to Yahoo earlier, and when I picked it up this morning, I found the back flap inserted between pages 276-77.  (A sign from God?)  The first sentence atop page 276:  “Journalists are highly attuned to hypocrisy, and their disgust at the discrepancy between what is preached and what is practiced among [some] religious folk can quite high.”  And note that I inserted the word “some” before “religious folk.”

I did that for a reason, expressed more fully in June 2014’s On “holier than thou.”  The gist of the post:  There are a lot of “prevailing quacks” in the Christian church.  The problem?  Such Bible literalists – who never go “beyond the fundamentals” – are both giving the rest of us a bad name and driving possible converts away in droves.  (Not to mention cheating themselves.)    

And that post included a quote from H. L. Mencken, in his Minority Report:

The only way that democracy can be made bearable is by developing and cherishing a class of men [ – people – ] sufficiently honest and disinterested to challenge the prevailing quacks.  No such class has ever appeared in strength in the United States.  Thus, the business of harassing the quacks devolves upon the newspapers.  When they fail in their duty, which is usually, we are at the quacks’ mercy.

The point of all this is that the right of dissent  – considering different points of view – is crucial to both personal spiritual growth and a healthy democracy.

For example, it was once said to be “contrary to Scripture” that the earth revolved around the sun.  But as I noted in Moses and Paul “dumbing it down,” the dissent finally prevaiied:

It was never ‘contrary to Scripture’ that the earth revolved around the sun.  It was only contrary to a narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of the Scripture…”

*   *   *   *

Gene Kelly as the Mencken-like character in the 1960 film Inherit the Wind

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “1978 postage stamp issued by the U.S. Post Office to commemorate Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.”

Re:  Holmes as “the Great Dissenter.”  See Amazon, The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind – and Changed the History of Free Speech in America.  But there are other claimants to the title.  See for example John Marshall Harlan – WikipediaNorman Thomas: The Great Dissenter – amazon.com, and International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame – Thurgood Marshall.  Marshall – the first black Justice – “became known as ‘the great dissenter’ for his vigorous opposition to majority Supreme Court decisions he believed violated human and civil rights.”  As for Harlan:

He was known as “the Great Dissenter” [as] the lone justice to dissent in one of the Supreme Court’s most notorious and damaging opinions, in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.  In arguing against his colleagues’ approval of the doctrine of “separate but equal,” John Marshall Harlan delivered what would become one of the most cited dissents in the court’s history.

The point being that “dissent” is essential to spiritual growth, for both persons and communities.  But see also Right to dissent legal definition:  While some on the Supreme Court have said  freedom of speech is absolute, most Americans agree with Justice Holmes:  The Constitution allows some restrictions under some circumstances.  See Shouting fire in a crowded theater.

*   *   *   *

Returning to the notes:  See the full Daily Office Readings for Saturday, January 13, 2018 on Satucket:  “AM Psalm 20, 21:1-7(8-14); PM Psalm 110:1-5(6-7), 116, 117;  Genesis 6:9-22Hebrews 4:1-13John 2:13-22,” which includes a blurb on Hilary (of Poitiers).  They include Hebrews 4:1-13 and John 2:13-22.  Hebrews 4:1-13 reads:  “So then, a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God;  for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his.”  The point there is that after that initial Sabbath-day’s rest – see Genesis 2:2 – God went back to work.  (See Is God at Work in History? – Everyday Theology.)  The logical conclusion is that “in the hereafter,” those who “cease from their labors” for one “Sabbath” in heaven will also likely “get back to work.”  As to John 2:13-22:

The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’   Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’   The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’  But he was speaking of the temple of his body.  After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The point there is that in saying “destroy this temple,” Jesus didn’t mean to be taken literally, but figuratively>  And that pretty much goes along with the major theme of this blog.

Re:  “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  See also Finley Peter Dunne – WikipediaTo comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortableSermon, Acts 19:1-10; 21-41, Comfort the Afflicted, and/or Who said comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?

The lower image is courtesy of Inherit the Wind (1960 film) – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Gene Kelly as Hornbeck.”  The cast list included this note:  “Gene Kelly as E. K. Hornbeck of the Baltimore Herald (patterned after Henry L. Mencken).”  In fairness I add this:

[T]he film engages in literary license with the facts…  For example, Scopes (Bertram Cates) is shown being arrested in class, thrown in jail, burned in effigy, and taunted by a fire-snorting preacher.  William Jennings Bryan (Matthew Harrison Brady) is portrayed as an almost comical fanatic who dramatically dies of a “busted belly” while attempting to deliver his summation in a chaotic courtroom.  The townspeople are shown as frenzied, mean-spirited, and ignorant. None of that happened in Dayton, Tennessee during the actual trial.

Happy Epiphany – 2018

The “Adoration of the Magi” – by El Greco – celebrated on January 6 as part of Epiphany

*   *   *   *

Saturday, January 6 , is the Feast of the Epiphany.

In the Christian church, that day “celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.”   But January 6 goes by other names as well.  For one thing, it’s known as the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas(And just to confuse things, the evening of January 5 is known as Twelfth Night.)  Yet a third name for January 6 is Three Kings Day.

There’s more about the Three Kings later, but first note Satucket on Epiphany:

“Epiphany” is a word of Greek origin, related to such English words as “theophany,” “phenotype,” and “phenomenon.”  It means an appearance, a displaying, a showing forth, a making clear or public or obvious.  On this day, Christians have traditionally celebrated the making known of Jesus Christ to the world.

(See Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” and To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!”)

Here’s Matthew 2:1-12:  “In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’” 

That news – of a “new-born king” – scared the heck out of Herod the Great.  (The “Roman client king of Judea.”  His “fright” led to the December 28 “feast” for the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents.)

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo - Adoration of the Magi - Google Art Project.jpgBut back to the Three Kings:  As Wikipedia noted, solid facts are hard to find:  “Though the event is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, there are no further details given with regards to their names, the number of Magi that were present or whether they were even royal.”  But for some solid theories see Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys.”  (Which includes information on the famed Christmas carol,  “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”)

Note also that the word originally used to describe the Three Kings was Magi, which gave rise to the current word “magic.”

Crossofashes.jpgFor more on the Season of Epiphany, see To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!”  That post notes that the full season runs from January 6 to – and through – the Last Sunday after the Epiphany.  This year, 2018, that date is February 11.  The following Tuesday, February 13, we celebrate Mardi Gras (A.k.a. Fat Tuesday.)  The day after that – February 14 – is Ash Wednesday, illustrated above right.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. . .

Getting back to the “eve” of January 6 as “Twelfth Night:”  That night is a “festival in some branches of Christianity marking the coming of the Epiphany.”  But as with some “holy-days,” that festival has gotten known for too much celebrating – if not debauchery – as shown in the painting below.  In fact, “Twelfth Night in the Netherlands became so secularized, rowdy and boisterous that public celebrations were banned from the church.

In other words, it became yet another occasion for “licentious, wild, and wanton partying [and] riotous pagan holiday spirits.”  (See Happy New Year – 2018?!?)  And that tradition goes back to the time before William Shakespeare. (1564-1616.)  See also Twelfth Night – Wikipedia:

“Twelfth Night” [in the play] is a reference to the twelfth night after Christmas Day, called the Eve of the Feast of Epiphany.  It was originally a Catholic holiday but, prior to Shakespeare’s play, had become a day of revelry.  Servants often dressed up as their masters, men as women and so forth.  This history of festive ritual and Carnivalesque reversal, based on the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia at the same time of year (characterized by drunken revelry and inversion of the social order; masters became slaves for a day, and vice versa), is the cultural origin of the play’s gender confusion-driven plot. [E.A.]

See also On coming home from a pilgrimage and the coming holidays.

So what’s the point?  One point could be that people love to party, and have since the beginning of time.  But another point could be that – also since the beginning of time – other people have found all that partying a bit too much.  As Wikipedia noted of Saturnalia:

Pliny [ – the lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome – ] describes a secluded suite of rooms in his Laurentine villa, which he used as a retreat: “…especially during the Saturnalia when the rest of the house is noisy with the licence of the holiday and festive cries.  This way I don’t hamper the games of my people and they don’t hinder my work or studies.”

Or as I noted in Happy New Year – 2018, “the web article on ‘The Truth About New Year’s‘ may convince you to stay home this New Year’s Eve…  But heck, I was going to do that anyway.  (Stay at home…)”  Not that I’m comparing myself to Pliny, but see also “great minds think alike.”

So – however you celebrate it – have a Happy Season of Epiphany, starting this January 6th.

*   *   *   *

Twelfth Night (The King Drinks) by David Teniers c. 1634-1640.”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Epiphany (holiday) – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “‘Adoration of the Magi‘ by El Greco, 1568, Museo SoumayaMexico City.”  See also Epiphany, from the “DOR” site.

The image to the left of the paragraph beginning “Back to the Three Kings” is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘The Adoration of the Magi‘ by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

The lower image is courtesy of The Twelve days of Christmas.  See also the January 2015 post, On the 12 Days of Christmas, which noted, “The Feast of the Epiphany is on 6 January [and] celebrates the visit of the Wise Men (Magi) and their bringing of gifts to the child Jesus.  In some traditions, the feast of Epiphany and Twelfth Day overlap.”

 

 

Happy New Year – 2018?!?

“In Christendom … New Year’s Day traditionally marks the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ…”

*   *   *   *

Just in case you were wondering, Christmas is not just one day, it’s a whole season.  Not a long season, just 12 Days (Which 12 days of Christmas have been immortalized by a “host of songs and spin-offs,” including one ending with “some parts to a Mustang GT.”)  And that 12-day Season of Christmas  ends on January 6, a day known in some quarters as “Plough Monday.”  

Plough Monday was the traditional start of the English agricultural year.  That was the time when people quit partying during the 12 days of Christmas and got back to work.  (See “Here’s to Plough Monday!” – 12/28/2015.)  Of course in our present day we get “back to work” on January 2.  That’s after we’ve spent New Year’s Day watching college football and/or recuperating from all the partying we did on New Year’s Eve.

But naturally that’s not how we celebrate New Year’s Day in the Universal Church (That is, the undivided church of the followers of Jesus, including Catholic and Protestant denominations.)  In that undivided church, January 1 is known as the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus(See also The Holy Name, for one set of Bible readings for the day.)  But there’s another name, for the less squeamish:

On January 1st, we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ.  Since we are more squeamish than our ancestors,* modern calendars often list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, but the other emphasis is the older.  Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life,* and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us.  [By and through the aforementioned circumcision, as illustrated above left.]

See Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys.”  (From 1/4/2016.)  That post from last year at this time explains about Epiphany – the “Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as human in Jesus Christ” – celebrated on January 6.  It also explains that January 6 too has an alternate name:  “Three Kings Day.”  And we’re familiar with those three wise men today largely thanks to a Christmas carol,  “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”  (For a live “old-timey” version see the Kings College Choir, Cambridge.)  And just as an aside, they were also known as Magi, and in its original sense the term meant “followers of Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster.”

But we’re digressing here…

Buzz Lightyear.pngFor more on the upcoming seasons of the church, see To Epiphany – “and BEYOND!”  (From January 14, 2017.)    The title of that post refers to Buzz Lightyear and his catch-phrase, “to infinity, and beyond!

The point being that practicing Christians also work to go “to infinity – and beyond!”  Or in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, to “live with confidence in newness and fullness of life,” and to await “the completion of God’s purpose for the world.”

But we were talking about New Year’s Day – and Eve – and the consensus seems to be that the origins of that time of celebration – if not debauchery – go back to pagan antiquity.

Back in 2,000 B.C. – 4,000 years ago – people in Mesopotamia – modern Iraq – started the practice of celebrating the new year.  But they partied hardy “around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March.”  The early Roman calendar too designated March 1 as the new year.

But then came the Julian calendar, named for Julius Caesar.  It added ten days to the prior 355-day year, and had the New Year start on the first day of January.  (Named for Janus, the “two-faced” god of gateways and beginnings.  Another BTW:  We now use the Gregorian calendar, which started in 1582.)  And finally, for a really in-depth analysis of New Year celebrations going back to “pagan antiquity,” see The Truth About New Year’s! Origins of New Years Celebration:

New Year’s Eve has become a time for people to wallow in excesses of liquor! The modern attitude seems to be, “have a wild time on New Year’s Eve, and turn over a new leaf on New Year’s Day!”  Most people seem to have convinced themselves that God is out of the picture for good. That God is not concerned with their modern revelings, drunken parties, promiscuous behavior!  

Be that as it may, the web article on “The Truth About New Year’s” may convince you to stay home this New Year’s Eve.  (For reasons including but not limited to New Year’s Eve being “noted for its licentious, wild, and wanton partying [and] riotous pagan holiday spirits – for the most part emanating from liquor bottles – all the while calling it “Christian!”)

But heck, I was going to do that anyway.  (Stay at home this evening that is…)

Have a Happy – and Safe – New Year! 

*   *   *   *

“New York’s famed Times Square at midnight, December 31…”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of New Year’s Day – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “In Christendom, under which the Gregorian Calendar developed, New Year’s Day traditionally marks the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, which is still observed as such by the Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church.”  Text and/or images for this post were gleaned from New Year’s Day – WikipediaThe History | Origin of New Years Day / December 31stThe Ancient Origins of New Year’s Celebrations, and/or The Truth About New Year’s! Origins of New Years Celebration.  The latter article includes a sub-article on “The Modern Attitude of Compromise,” accepted by many ostensible Christians, with the comment that “Excessive drug use has become common at New Year’s Eve events.”

Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference further explained in this “notes” section. Thus as to the definition of squeamish – as to the full meaning of January 1 in the Christian calendar – the term means “easily shocked, offended, or disgusted by unpleasant things.”  The painting to the left of the paragraph in question is courtesy of Circumcision – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “The Circumcision of Jesus Christ, by Ludovico Mazzolino.”

Also, as to every Jewish boy being circumcised “on the eighth day of his life,” modern readers are sometimes confused by the Jewish method of counting days.  To us, the eighth day of Jesus’ life would be January 2, by starting the count on December 26.  But the ancient Jews – in effect – counted “inclusively,” meaning they started their eight-day count on December 25.  The main reason for such counting-of-days was that they had no way of determining “midnight” with any precision.  (The first “clocks” as we know them didn’t appear until the 1400s.)  Thus the Jewish day started “with the onset of night,” or dusk, or the setting of the sun.  See e.g.  Jewish Time – simpletoremember.com.

Note also:  This is why the Bible says Jesus was raised from the dead “on the third day,” Sunday, when He’d been crucified the previous Friday.  (See e,g, Acts 10:40.)  According to modern time, Jesus was raised on the second day, but that method is different from “Bible time.”  

As to the web article, The Truth About New Year’s! Origins of New Years Celebration:  I’m pretty sure the authors of that site don’t agree with the premises of this blog, to wit:  That God will accept anyone;  That God wants us to live lives of abundance;  That God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus; and:  That the “only way to live live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is to read the Bible with an open mind.”    

The lower image is courtesy of The Truth About New Year’s! Origins of New Years Celebration.  The full caption:  “New York’s famed Times Square at midnight, December 31, as thousands gather to usher in the pagan Roman New Year.  The undampended [sic] spirits of the crowd bring to mind the ancient Roman Saturnalia.”  Also note, “Photo by Countdown Entertainment LLC.”